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Sight Fishing: A Few Tips for Casting to Spooky Trout

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October 09, 2013

Sight Fishing: A Few Tips for Casting to Spooky Trout

By Kirk Deeter

Anglers often forget that a trout's eyes are on the sides of its head and not pointing forward, like human eyes. Thus, the fish's peripheral vision is far more effective than ours is. And yet, when we see a fish laid up or sipping in calm clear water, we always try to sneak in for that cast from the side.  When we get just about close enough... poof, the fish darts away and we wonder why.

When fishing in calm water the most important tip is to keep a low profile. The number one factor that spooks fish is shadows, when they detect motion in their vicinity. I cast from my knees—and from the bank—as often as possible. I keep my boots as dry as possible, because even the smallest wakes and waves will put feeding trout down. I try to position my body so that my shadows (and the shadow of my fly rod) are not cast directly over the target. Never false cast directly over the target fish.

And when you present the fly from downstream, you want the leader to cover the fish, but not the fly line. Imagine your target is about two feet above the water surface, so you don't drive a cast that splashes down with force—you want it to gently fall from the sky. The calmer the water, the more you must pause between casts. If the current is moving at a snail's pace—maybe two feet per second—I might wait two minutes between casts. And I will probably change the dry fly pattern if I am reasonably sure the fish saw my bug the first time around. You will seldom beat a fish into submission by firing rapid casts.

Yes, I know. There are many moving parts to sight fishing in calm, clear water. And there's nothing more frustrating than blowing up as all those thoughts pass through your mind at the moment of truth. So before you even cast, take a minute to pause. Watch the fish. And calmly make your plan, then visualize it all coming together.

Just be sure to do that behind the fish's field of vision, and preferably while sitting down or kneeling.

Comments (8)

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from tudave wrote 26 weeks 6 days ago

Great advice! Most people like to stand up to cast, but for spooky fish, the tall, predator profile is a deal breaker. Two other bits of advice, as a long-time fly fishing guide, I like to see folks cast quartering downstream or even straight downstream to the really picking fish. Showing the fish the fly first with no leader is VERY effective. In fact, downstream presentations are prohibited on many English chalk stream fishing properties. In addition to having their eyes on the side, light entering water is refracted. So, the trout see both up and out in a "cone" of vision. For picky fish, you absolutely must stay out of their cone of vision.

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from tudave wrote 26 weeks 6 days ago

Great advice! Most people like to stand up to cast, but for spooky fish, the tall, predator profile is a deal breaker. Two other bits of advice, as a long-time fly fishing guide, I like to see folks cast quartering downstream or even straight downstream to the really picking fish. Showing the fish the fly first with no leader is VERY effective. In fact, downstream presentations are prohibited on many English chalk stream fishing properties. In addition to having their eyes on the side, light entering water is refracted. So, the trout see both up and out in a "cone" of vision. For picky fish, you absolutely must stay out of their cone of vision.

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from jaukulele wrote 26 weeks 6 days ago

"...we always try to sneak in for that cast from the side."

Guilty!

I'll be heeding these warnings on my next trip.

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from Dangle wrote 26 weeks 6 days ago

A great read for anyone interested in this subject is to read Mike Lawson's book "Spring Creeks," and the chapter on the "fishes window", and understand the factors involved, and what a fish can see. Illustrations are presented. The depth of the fish is a big factor in how much of the outside world it can see.

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from buckhunter wrote 26 weeks 6 days ago

Downstream presentation??? Like shooting a deer over a bait pile.

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from Dangle wrote 26 weeks 5 days ago

buck...Huh? Are you one of those liberal fly fishing elitists? I use downstream presentations whenever possible. I can use bigger tippet sizes, often a 3x tippet on a size # 16 hook even, and land the fish much sooner, and much better on the fish when hooking, and releasing. Get off of that elitist BS.

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from buckhunter wrote 26 weeks 4 days ago

Dangle, sometimes I write a post which is designed to bait a response from another reader but you are always the one to take my bait.

How in the hell do you derive the word LIBERAL from my comment?

Reminds me of a quote I read not long ago which I will paraphrase due to poor memory. "Fish counters are nothing but vandals of fly fishing". Thought of you when I read that.

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from Dangle wrote 26 weeks 3 days ago

And sometimes you write a post to identify yourself as an out of body experience lib...like identifying "fly fishing" as including anglers that don't even need to bring a flyrod with them to say they were "fly fishing." Makes me embarrassed to say I am included in that fraternity. And that is a huge reason why fly fishing has hit a plateau, and is on the slide. Newbies don't get into it because they see it as a sport that anglers really don't care if they catch fish, or not. I tried to improve my fishing buddies fly fishing technique. He responds, " it really isn't about catching fish, it's about just getting out. I may not take the guy in my boat again.

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from tudave wrote 26 weeks 6 days ago

Great advice! Most people like to stand up to cast, but for spooky fish, the tall, predator profile is a deal breaker. Two other bits of advice, as a long-time fly fishing guide, I like to see folks cast quartering downstream or even straight downstream to the really picking fish. Showing the fish the fly first with no leader is VERY effective. In fact, downstream presentations are prohibited on many English chalk stream fishing properties. In addition to having their eyes on the side, light entering water is refracted. So, the trout see both up and out in a "cone" of vision. For picky fish, you absolutely must stay out of their cone of vision.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tudave wrote 26 weeks 6 days ago

Great advice! Most people like to stand up to cast, but for spooky fish, the tall, predator profile is a deal breaker. Two other bits of advice, as a long-time fly fishing guide, I like to see folks cast quartering downstream or even straight downstream to the really picking fish. Showing the fish the fly first with no leader is VERY effective. In fact, downstream presentations are prohibited on many English chalk stream fishing properties. In addition to having their eyes on the side, light entering water is refracted. So, the trout see both up and out in a "cone" of vision. For picky fish, you absolutely must stay out of their cone of vision.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jaukulele wrote 26 weeks 6 days ago

"...we always try to sneak in for that cast from the side."

Guilty!

I'll be heeding these warnings on my next trip.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 26 weeks 6 days ago

A great read for anyone interested in this subject is to read Mike Lawson's book "Spring Creeks," and the chapter on the "fishes window", and understand the factors involved, and what a fish can see. Illustrations are presented. The depth of the fish is a big factor in how much of the outside world it can see.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 26 weeks 6 days ago

Downstream presentation??? Like shooting a deer over a bait pile.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 26 weeks 5 days ago

buck...Huh? Are you one of those liberal fly fishing elitists? I use downstream presentations whenever possible. I can use bigger tippet sizes, often a 3x tippet on a size # 16 hook even, and land the fish much sooner, and much better on the fish when hooking, and releasing. Get off of that elitist BS.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 26 weeks 4 days ago

Dangle, sometimes I write a post which is designed to bait a response from another reader but you are always the one to take my bait.

How in the hell do you derive the word LIBERAL from my comment?

Reminds me of a quote I read not long ago which I will paraphrase due to poor memory. "Fish counters are nothing but vandals of fly fishing". Thought of you when I read that.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 26 weeks 3 days ago

And sometimes you write a post to identify yourself as an out of body experience lib...like identifying "fly fishing" as including anglers that don't even need to bring a flyrod with them to say they were "fly fishing." Makes me embarrassed to say I am included in that fraternity. And that is a huge reason why fly fishing has hit a plateau, and is on the slide. Newbies don't get into it because they see it as a sport that anglers really don't care if they catch fish, or not. I tried to improve my fishing buddies fly fishing technique. He responds, " it really isn't about catching fish, it's about just getting out. I may not take the guy in my boat again.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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